Well, it’s been some four days since the UK General Election, and it’s still not clear who will be forming the next government.
I voted just as soon as I got back from work. The polling station was well organised, with four tables with two people each and three other attendants on hand. There was a steady stream of people coming and going, with about fifteen to twenty people voting at any one time. It was brisk, efficient and friendly. I understand that the situation was somewhat different elsewhere, and it really reflected badly on the polls overall. Gordon Brown, the incumbent MP and Prime Minister won the constituency easily with 64.5% of the vote (the nearest challengers were the SNP who got 14.3%, with the LibDems and Tories almost equal with 9%).
I was surprised that the Tories even got a seat in Scotland, holding their sole seat from the 2005 election. Quite frankly Tories are not welcome in Scotland, consistently in fourth place in polls. While there is widespread dislike of New Labour here, the spectre of a Tory government is enough to reinforce Labour’s stronghold here. There is also a general dislike on a completely personal level towards the personalities of both Mr. Cameron and Mr. Clegg who honestly do come across as toffs, very superficial and disconnected from the working class. As much as I am opposed to New Labour, I admit Mr. Brown is the only one of the three I actually respect and would engage in a discussion with should I see him at the football.
On Friday I left Scotland to visit some family down in England, in the heart of Tory-land, near Huntingdon. Throughout Edinburgh and Fife I have only come across one lonely and slightly pathetic pro-Conservative sign. Shortly after entering England the frequency of Conservative signs increased almost exponetionally the further south I came. It was interesting speaking with Conservative supporters and members over the weekend, and I marvelled at the fundamentally different perspectives on politics from Scotland to (albeit rural) England.
It was especially interesting hearing the perspective of Tories as the negotiations between them and the LibDems got under way. Despite the confidence shown on the TV, I didn’t meet one Tory supporter who believed a Lib-Con coalition (of some sort) would be the result. They were convinced that there would instead be a Lib-Lab-Nationalists coalition. At the same time I was in touch with friends who support the LibDems and they were expressing their revulsion at the idea of working with the Tories and were adamant they would vote Green or Labour next time. My Labour friends started off Friday and Saturday depressed, convinced Monday would see a Lib-Con coalition. On Sunday the Labour mood seemed to change with people split on the possibility of a Lib-Lab coalition materialising, or Labour (as Opposition) engineering an Autumn election and wiping out the LibDem vote, returning to power with a full majority.
With Gordon Brown’s announcement that he intends to resign it seems as if the possibility of a Lib-Lab-Nats coalition could become a reality in the next 48hrs. The situation remains pretty fluid here, and the level of political discussion here is getting quite heated. I personally am supportive of a Lib-Lab-Nats coalition but it’s not clear whether that will (a) happen; or (b) be truly progressive and usher in electoral reform amongst other policies.
One story of the election which seems to be hidden (perhaps deliberately?) is that in a small number of seats the Labour incumbent actually increased their vote share; in most other Labour held seats there was a swing of support going towards the Tories. Gordon Brown’s constituency was one of these, but the others were all won by Labour MPs who have been actively fighting New Labour and pushing their own socialist platform rather than the official Labour manifesto. These MPs are Mike Wood (Batley & Spen), Katy Clark (Ayrshire North & Arran), Kelvin Hopkins (Luton North), Jeremy Corbyn (Islington North) and John McDonnell (Hayes & Harlington). All of which should make for some interesting dynamics in the ensuing leadership election for Labour with Mr. Brown’s announcement.